Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Here's a depressing thought...

I don't want my blog to derail into negative observations, but I have another one anyway. Then I promise I will stop being 'Mr. Complainy Pants' and get back to art and art culture blogging...

So anyway- have you ever been to a Goodwill outlet Store? It's not your typical thrift store, or even your standard Goodwill store. It's something even far more depressing than an eviction yardsale or being so poor that you sell your plasma to be able to afford a meal that will essentially only replace the plasma you just sold.

A Goodwill Outlet Store is essentially a big hangar or warehouse-like room, full of bins of junk that maybe they didn't want to process or didn't think was fit for sale in the regular store.... It has really high ceilings,(though the junk bins are never more than 3 feet off the ground so I don't know why the ceilings have to be 50ft tall, but...) with typical depressing gym lighting. There are no prices. Nope. You PAY BUY THE POUND- of whatever it is you find. Clothes by the pound seems like a good deal but maybe books and housewares by the pound could get steep. Anyway, this is what they look like:

My first thought was- holy shit! I bet if I had all day I could really find some treasures here!
My very next thought the very next second was -Holy shit! this is kind of sad.

Not sad because the people shopping there were really poor or providing for their families- most were not. Most were other eBayers or Junk Sellers or Packrats. I was looking for metal parts for my steampunk guns and robots, so I was already in a foul mood when I saw an older woman with a cart full of pretty much every piece of brass in the place. My competition meter was on high. I fear facing snooty old swap meet women should they survive the apocalypse and frequent Barter Town. They are ruthless!
...but competition aside, a weird sadness came over me that I couldn't pinpoint until I was on my way out the door.

I had walked past bins of unwashed clothes that still smelled like people. Random clothes. No women's or men's sections that I could discern. Bins and bins of shoes. Bins of old belongings that were uncategorized other than, essentially, 'book' or 'not book'.

I love junk stores. And antique stores give me more warm nostalgia than 'creepy-old-shit' vibes. I even dumpster dive on occasion,  so I really didn't have a problem with the fact that this room was full of old crap....
It was what the environment and experience reminded me of.

It literally reminded me of the piles of property at the train stations after Nazis took the luggage from the Jews they were sending to the camps. Loosely sorted. clothes, shoes, books, silverware...Of course nothing will hopefully ever duplicate that horror, and holocaust comparisons are often extreme, but that was the feeling that came over me. Dead people's stuff. Getting rooted through by looters and scavengers.

And I'm sure it wasn't all completely spring cleaning donations, certainly some actually WAS the property of dead people. I know when my own mother died, it was emotionally easier to just get rid of a lot of her stuff right away. You can't trash it, so you donate it and hope it can still be used by someone. So to see these heaps of belongings being bought and sold by the pound was a little depressing and not how I would have intended for my donations to end up...and it could effect where I donate to from now on. Not because goodwill are Nazis or dead people's things are creepy, but because the whole operation treated it all like utter shit (and most of it was) but they had no problem selling the shit to you by the pound in this strange, clinical, unfriendly environment. Ironically, I suggest you visit one if you can. It will make you hug and cling to all other ways of thrifting!


  1. Found your blog on threadless. Congrats on getting another design printed.

    This post reminded me of a story I read in "The Best American Non-Required Reading 2003" called "How Susie Bayer's T-Shirt ended up on Yusuf Mama's back" you can google the title to get to the NY Times article with the full story.

    In it a journalist follows the t-shirt of a women after she donates it to a second hand store. Most of the clothes we donate ends up in third world countries.

    Interesting out look on the feeling of the store though. I like goodwill but I don't think I would ever want to go to the outlet.

  2. This is the reason why I don't go to many fleamarkets anymore... somehow I always seem to end up in a corner full of cardboard boxes with dead people's stuff, like glass ware, clothes, old family photo albums and even condolence books. The last one really creeped me out.